After fighting to prevent its passage and months of work to get its repeal placed on the ballot for referendum, Ohioans head to the polls today to decide the fate of SB 5, the union-busting law passed by Republicans and signed into law by embattled and hardly-popular Gov. John Kasich (R). The law, on the ballot as Issue 2, is widely expected to fail. But if it doesn’t, it will have horrendous effects on some 350,000 of Ohio’s public workers, restricting their collective bargaining rights, ending their right to strike, and giving elected officials the power to determine labor disputes.
Already, Ohioans have begun to see the ill-effects of Kasich’s union-busting law, and its widespread unpopularity has even led the bill’s backers to deceive voters into believing its repeal would negatively affect police officers, firefighters, teachers, and veterans. Of course, the opposite is true, with some estimates saying 51,000 public employees would lose their jobs under the law. And with polls open and less than 12 hours until the fate of SB5 will ultimately be decided, ThinkProgress compiled examples of how Issue 2 — the ballot name for SB5 — will negatively affect different groups of public employees if it isn’t repealed today:
FIREFIGHTERS: Two-thirds of those 51,000 public employees would be safety workers, like firefighters. “When you reduce staffing you reduce the availability of people to be able to respond to emergencies,” said Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters Jim Carney. “Without the ability to negotiate for staffing levels, we lose firefighters.” Even Republican Mayor David Smith of Lancaster, OH said Senate Bill 5 misses the point. After Smith laid off 16 firefighters, he noted that it was Kasich’s budget cuts, not collective bargaining units, that forced his hand. In one ad, an Ohio grandmother noted that firefighters who saved her granddaughter deserved the rights to negotiate staff levels because “fewer firefighters can mean the difference between life or death.”
POLICE OFFICERS: Thomas Bell, chief of police in Marion, wrote an op-ed against Issue 2 last week, saying his officers had already begun paying 20 percent of their health costs and given back nearly a half-million dollars. His department, he said, couldn’t continue at the current rate without tragic results: “The employees at our department have done their part, giving up more than $480,000 this year alone. That comes in the form of give-backs, furlough days, higher health care contributions and concessions. Our police department is supposed to have 69 officers, and we have only 57. We cannot continue to do more with less without tragic results.”
TEACHERS: Teachers, including a former Ohio Teacher of the Year, lined up in opposition to Kasich’s law. Chillicothe teacher Portia Boulger decried Kasich’s law at a rally in March, saying his assertions that he respected teachers were absurd: “When he says he respects us, it’s a lie. He doesn’t respect me I’m 58 years old. I’ve been working since I was 13 and he wants to take my retirement away from me. Is that respect? Is that respect? No it’s not. He cares nothing about me. He cares about the Koch brothers and the money they put in his pocket. And I’m extremely angry and upset. And I’m not greedy. I am a hard worker and he doesn’t care about me or any of my kind.”
VETERANS: Senate Bill 5 eliminates a long-standing Ohio provision that ensured veterans who became teachers could count their active duty service towards tenure so they don’t fall behind their civilian colleagues while on active duty. That elimination could cost some veterans up to $2,000 in annual salary. In addition to teachers, more than 1,000 Ohio firefighters and paramedics are serving in the military and now face restricted rights upon their return. “We didn’t expect this kind of homecoming when we came back,” said firefighter David Jarvis who served in Operation Desert Storm and the Afghanistan War. Another veteran firefighter John Szymkowiak said, “I never expected to have to fight our own government…to have a voice in my own safety and work conditions.”
These Ohioans are the predominant reason voices on both sides of the aisle have come forth to denounce Kasich’s attack on these workers’ rights and urge a no vote on Issue 2. As retired Republican Ohio Supreme Court Judge Andy Douglas said, “Senate Bill 5 must be rejected” to stop “politicians who would turn back the clock on public safety and on those who protect and serve us.”